One of the most coveted endorsements on the right has yet to be captured. The Koch brothers haven't picked a candidate for president yet, they told MSNBC's Morning Joe in an exclusive interview Tuesday, and they're not satisfied with what they've seen so far.
Charles Koch said he's "discouraged" by the 2016 contenders, because none adequately reflects his and his brother's libertarian-leaning, free-market values. "I'm trying to be diplomatic," Charles Koch said with a laugh when asked about the candidates. He added that he doesn't intend to "publicly comment on any candidate."
The billionaire businessmen, who rarely grant in-person interviews, have emerged over the last decade as among the biggest donors to conservative causes. They've been helped by the Supreme Court's evisceration of limits on money in politics, which has allowed them and their allies to pour unlimited sums into super PACs aimed at influencing elections.
The Kochs were rumored to be coalescing around the candidacy of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker back in April. But Charles Koch tried to throw cold water on that notion. "Do you know how much we have given to his campaign? Zero," he said Tuesday. Walker dropped out of the 2016 race in September amid lackluster poll numbers and trouble raising money.
The Kochs' expression of disappointment in the Republican field comes even though the leading GOP candidates have adopted policies that appear to reflect the Kochs' priorities. Many have criticized what they see as excessive government regulation, and have released economic plans that reduce corporate taxes and lower the tax burden on the wealthy. Sen. Marco Rubio's plan, for instance, would abolish taxes on capital gains. But to win the Kochs' support, it appears they may need to go even further.
They may not yet have picked a candidate, but don't expect the Kochs to sit on the sidelines. Charles Koch said he and his brother hope to spend $250 million on the general election. That's likely to go in support of the Republican nominee.
"I expect something in return," he said. "I would love to have the government stop this corporate welfare. I want the government to require that companies only profit by making other peoples' lives better."
"If we didn't do it, who would be trying to stop this racket? This is a huge racket that's wrecking the country," he added.
Charles Koch said he was hopeful that President George W. Bush would reflect his values, but became disillusioned when government spending increased under Bush. That led him and his brother to get more actively involved in supporting candidates who subscribed to his philosophy.
"I don't care what party, I just want somebody who's going to advance these ideas," Charles Koch said.